News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 July 2017

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 July 2017
The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, aims to update colleagues in the Open Society Foundations and friends further afield about the news, opinions and events the Program team have been watching this fortnight. The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect those of the Information Program or the OSF. Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Our staff, advisers and major grantees tweet at Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Citizen Lab, Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, EFF, Privacy International.

For breaking news stories, visit:

India: Supreme Court rules course packs are legal
EIFL reports that the Supreme Court of India has dismissed an appeal by the Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (IRRO) challenging an earlier judgment of Delhi High Court that ruled course packs in India are legal for educational purposes. The decision ends a five-year court battle that began when three publishers, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, filed suit against the University of Delhi and Rameshwari Photocopy Service for copyright infringement. In two judgments, in September and December 2016, the court ruled that the course packs fell under section 52(1)(i) of Indian copyright law, which provides an education exemption.

Russia cracks down on online anonymity
Global Voices reports that just prior to beginning its summer recess Russia's Duma passed 69 bills that include numerous censorship measures that will prohibit anonymous messaging; outlaw VPNs, proxies, and other anonymizers; and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites. In addition, services must verify user identities by requiring a phone number and prevent illegal content from being distributed on their platforms. Many of these measures correspond to President Vladimir Putin's Strategy for the Development of an Information Society, and Global Voices speculates that they may presage further restrictions. The Guardian reports that hackers are subverting Russia's attempt to control the internet by buying banned sites and inserting the details of legitimate sites into their pages, with the net result that those sites also became blocked. The result was to block the Russian search engine Yandex, banks, NTV, and LifeNews. Sarkis Darbinyan, a lawyer for the free internet-promoting RosKomSvoboda project, predicts that Russia is moving towards the presumption that everything is forbidden unless it is explicitly permitted.
Global Voices:

US: White House asks states to transfer voter rolls
National Public Radio's Pam Fessler reports that the White House commission studying voter fraud and other election irregularities has written to all 50 states to ask for all publicly available voter roll data to be sent to the White House by July 14. The goal is thought to be to compare the data to other government databases in order to identify non-citizens or other illegitimate registrants. The Verified Voting Foundation reports that more than ten states, including California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, have refused to comply with the request. Others, including Connecticut, Minnesota, and Oklahoma, have said they will turn over public, but not private, information. EPIC reports that lawsuits have been filed to block the data transfer in Florida, New Hampshire, and Texas and that a group of more than 70 US Congress members have written to the Presidential Election Commission to ask it to withdraw the request immediately.
Voting News:
EPIC (states):
EPIC (letter):

Colombia: Court demands journalist's Facebook password
Global Voices reports that the judge overseeing the prosecution of Colombian investigative journalist William Solano authorized the district attorney to search Solano's Facebook account in order to identify his anonymous sources. Solano is being prosecuted for slander after writing multiple articles on administrative corruption in the district of Buga. The Colombian Foundation for Press Freedom and the FundaciĆ³n Karisma have both protested the order.
Global Voices:

China: Authorities make new censorship and surveillance moves
Radio Free Asia reports that the Xi'an municipal branch of the Cyberspace Agency has ordered ISPs to submit files to police on anyone with more than 30,000 social media followers as part of an ongoing crackdown on foreign content. Service providers have until August 15 to comply with the new rules or face the possibility of being shut down. The directive also applies to individuals residing temporarily within the city limits. The authorities have also removed a large array of overseas TV shows and video content, and issued takedown notices to two popular multimedia websites targeting young people. Global Voices reports that on July 10 residents of the Western Chinese ethnic minority region Xinjiang received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance app called Jingwang. While the message said the app was intended to prevent them from accessing terrorist information, Global Voices cites a Radio Free Asia report that soon after installing the app ten Kazakh women were arrested for messages sent to a private WeChat group.
Global Voices:

For more features and analysis selected by the Program team, visit:

Black Code
In this video clip, Citizen Lab founder and director Ron Deibert trails the documentary Black Code, based on his book by the same name. The film is available for streaming from numerous sites and covers digital privacy and online security issues by weaving together interconnected tales from Tibet, China, Syria, Brazil, and Pakistan. A posting announcing the film's screening at the Toronto International Film Festival includes excerpts from the book. Also at Citizen Lab, research fellow Jon Penney reveals the results of an investigation into who is most likely to self-censor in response to surveillance: women and younger people.
Citizen Lab (Black Code):
Citizen Lab (excerpt):
Citizen Lab (Penney):

Governance and the export of surveillance equipment
In this letter, numerous NGOs including Access Now, Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, Privacy International, and Statewatch ask EU member states and institutions to respect their human rights obligations and modernize the rules governing the export of surveillance equipment to authoritarian countries around the world. Such proposals were first recommended in 2011 and are currently up for discussion within the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament.

Stopping algorithms from telling lies
In this Observer article, Cathy O'Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, describes four types of bad algorithms: unintentional cultural biases; neglect; nasty but legal practices; intentional design. O'Neil goes on to consider the obstacles to oversight. Now, it's a political fight; tomorrow it will be an arms race.

Emotion capture technology
In this blog posting at the LSE Media Policy Project, Bangor University professor Andrew McStay discusses emotion capture technology, the subject of several recent patents filed by Facebook. The company wants to use webcams and smartphone cameras to read and track our emotions and expressions. However, McStay writes, in research he conducted for a report on the rise of "emotion AI" and "empathic media" he finds that outside of games most people do not like the idea. Younger people are twice as likely to accept the idea - but even so, only 13.8% of 18-to-24-year-olds accept it and they still want meaningful control. He goes on to consider how data protection law should treat these technologies.

Taking down dark markets
In this pair of blog postings, investigative security reporter Brian Krebs details the takedown of the dark market site Alphabay and its follow-up, in which Dutch police spent a month operating the competing Lithuania-based Hansa Market in order to both disrupt it and sweep up criminals migrating their operations. Although it's generally expected that new dark markets will arise to fill the gap, police hope that additional damage to customer trust will be done by making it too risky for criminals to reuse their previously known user IDs. The second posting is an exclusive interview discussing the operation with Dutch police team leader Petra Haandrikman. In another bit of clever digital investigation, Ars Technica reports that the key document in a corruption inquiry in Pakistan has been identified as a probable forgery because Calibri, the font used in the document, dated 2006, did not ship in a stable version of Windows until 2007.
Krebs (takedown):
Krebs (interview):
Ars Technica:

Inclusive technology design
In this blog posting at Freedom to Tinker, Kate Sim and Bendert Zevenbergen discuss the interaction of technology design and the problems and threats faced by vulnerable groups such as children, women, and LGBTQ people. Despite good intentions, designers often fail to consider different contexts; technology that is harmless or beneficial to most users may be actively dangerous for others. At the New York Times, women entrepreneurs have come forward to talk to Katie Benner about the discrimination and sexual harassment they face when seeking venture capital in Silicon Valley. Zebras Unite calls for a more ethical and inclusive alternative to current start-up culture.
Freedom to Tinker:
New York Times:
Zebras Unite:


To see more events recommended by the Information Program team, visit: If you would like your event listed in this mail, email

Robots Exhibition
February 8 - September 13
London, UK
The Science Museum's 2017 robots exhibition includes robotic artifacts over five centuries, from a 16th century mechanized monk to the latest research developments. Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world.

August 9-13, 2017
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Wikimania's keynotes, hackathons, preconferences, workshops, and community-submitted talks will include sessions on the future of editing Wikipedia; outreach in Africa; library partnerships - Wikidata tools - what readers visit - communicating your work - Wikimedia's strategy - legal threats to free knowledge - Wikipedia in minority and endangered languages; Wikipedia in Iraq; medicine and emergency response; the gender gap; preventing online harassment; sounds and video; implicit bias; citations and references; the future of Wikisource and Wikiversity; real-time collaboration; global trends; leading teams; Wikidata and museums; making access affordable; the future of news; collaboration under censorship; and education.

IFLA World Libraries and Information Congress
August 19-25, 2017
Wroclaw, Poland
The theme of the 83rd annual IFLA congress will be "Achieving a healthy future together: diverse and emerging roles for health information professionals".

WikiCon 2017
September 8-10, 2017
Leipzig, Germany
The meeting of German-language Wikipedia, its sibling projects, and anyone who is interested in free knowledge. WikiCon will provide space for workshops, lectures, and panel discussions to be designed in collaboration with its participants.

#CivicTechFest 2017
September 10-16. 2017
Taipei, China
Asia's first-ever civic technology festival and conference, #CivicTechFest" will feature a series of forums, workshops, roundtables, conferences, and hackathons related to open data and open government.

Expanding from its annual conference in Florence in April, mySociety's annual conference, TICTeC, which focuses on the impacts of civic technology, will provide two days of sessions as part of #CivicTechFest.

Summit on Internet Freedom in Africa
September 27-29, 2017
Johannesburg, South Africa
This event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing the right to privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination, and the free flow of information online.

Privacy + Security Forum
October 4-6, 2017
Washington, DC
The conference breaks down the silos of security and privacy by bringing together leaders from both fields.

Mozfest 2017
October 27-29, 2017
London, UK
The world's leading festival for the open internet movement will feature influential thinkers from around the world to build, debate, and explore the future of a healthy internet.

ORGcon 2017
November 4, 2017
London, UK
ORGCon is the UK's biggest digital rights conference. This year's theme is: The Digital Fightback.

OpenCon 2017
November 11-13, 2017
Berlin, Germany
OpenCon is the conference and community for students and early career academic professionals interested in advancing Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Applications to attend are due by August 1.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 24-26, 2018
The theme of the 11th edition of CPDP is the "Internet of Bodies". Data collection increasingly focuses on the physical body. Bodies are increasingly connected, digitized, and informatized. In turn, the data extracted is reassembled in ways that give rise to significant questions - challenging fundamental assumptions about where the corporeal ends and the informational begins. Biometrics, genetic data processing and the quantified self are only some of the trends and technologies reaching into the depths of our bodies. Emerging technologies such as human enhancement, neural implants, and brain wave technology look likely to soon become a daily reality.

May 16-18, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
RightsCon has become one of the world's largest gatherings on human rights and technology, and it's people like you that make it an engine for change. The 2018 event is staged in Canada for a conversation built on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on July 31, 2017 12:42 PM.

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